Boarding at Penrith High School
Our school, originally named Nepean High School, officially opened on 30 January 1963. Because the new buildings at Emu Plains were not ready for occupation until early Term 2 1963, our first enrolment of students boarded at Penrith High School, enrolling on 31 January 1962. There were six classes and they were named 1A N, 1B N to 1F N, the “N” representing Nepean to distinguish them from Penrith High School classes. The students spent the whole of 1962 and part of 1963 at Penrith High School under the Principal of Penrith High School, Mr J P Sharpe.
Moving to the Emu Plains site
The school moved from Penrith High School into Blocks A, B and C on the Emu Plains on Wednesday, 29th May 1963.
It had its own Principal, Mr Jack Dillon, and staff. There were 198 enrolments in Form 1 (Year 7) and 217 in Form 2 (Year 8). The Principal's office was originally housed in the Industrial Arts section (Block C).
In Nepean High School’s first year (1963), people had to walk across the mud of the quadrangle using planks. Gradually the quadrangle was concreted, lawns laid and playing fields developed. In 1970 the Library and Science laboratory block was built and in 1971 the School Hall was added. In 1977 the school had grown to 1200 students and 70 staff members. In 1987 the Art and Music block was built. In 2012 the Nepean Arts Centre (The NAC) was constructed and officially opened by NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell on Saturday 18 May 2013.
Naming of the school
During 1962 the name of the school had been discussed at meetings of the provisional Parents and Citizens’ Association. The name Nepean High School had been favoured because it was a general name covering the whole area feeding the school. The Nepean River flowed near the school site and through much of the feeder area from Warragamba to Penrith and Castlereagh, while the rest of the feeder area as far up the mountains as Springwood overlooked the river. The original drawing area encompassed Castlereagh, Lower Mountains, and Warragamba. Only 7 of the 1963 Form 1 intake came from Emu Plains itself. Other primary schools sending students were Penrith, Penrith South, Regentville, Mulgoa, Wallacia, Warragamba, Lower Castlereagh, Upper Castlereagh, Cranebrook, Glenbrook, Blaxland, Warrimoo South and Springwood.
When it became clear that a large majority of parents and pupils favoured Nepean High School as the name of the new school, the Principal advised the Director of Secondary Education on 2 March 1963 to that effect and shortly afterwards during the first term of 1963, the Minister agreed.
In 2010 Nepean High School began a specialist stream for the Creative and Performing Arts, by audition, and it's name changed to Nepean Creative and Performing Arts High School.
The school is divided into four houses to foster school spirit:
- Bowman: House colour - Red.
Descendants of a family in the Penrith area with links to the Aboriginal Dharruk tribe. They owned a farm called Archerfield near Richmond.
- Forbes: House colour - Blue.
Francis Forbes was the first Chief Justice of NSW in 1823. He owned Edinglassie (63 acres of land) and introduced 'trial by jury'.
- Perry: House colour - Yellow.
George Perry was a Zoologist and, together with his brothers James, John and William, owned land at St Marys, Penrith and Mulgoa.
- York: House colour - Green.
The York family owned the York Estate which was given by land grant to the daugher of Governor Bligh.
School motto - "Aspire the Heights"
To explain the origin of our school motto we have to go back to 26 January 1788 when Governor Phillip founded the colony at Sydney Cove – hence our celebration of Australia Day. In April 1788 Governor Phillip looked across from Pennant Hills to the Blue Mountains and named them the “Carmarthen Hills”. Due to the “Rayleigh scattering phenomenon” (light reflected from dust particles and water vapour) and the presence of eucalyptus trees, the mountains appear blue so the more common name, the “Blue Mountains”, has prevailed.
On 26 June 1789 Captain (later General) Watkin Tench lead the first European inland expedition in Australia coming across the Deerabin River. It was the first exploration carried out on land in Australia. Governor Phillip re-named the river “Nepean River” after Sir Evan Nepean, an old naval friend who by this time was a very important Government official in England. Nepean, during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars was Under Secretary for War and Lord of the Admiralty.
In December 1789 the expedition discovered the ford across the Nepean and proceeded to what is now Linden. In 1790 and 1791 Captain Tench and Lt. Dawes traced the Nepean and Hawkesbury Rivers and proved that they were the same river. On the 1790 expedition emus were noticed at the ford across the Nepean, this is where the weir is now, past the Rowing Club. “Emu” was the word given by Europeans to any large bird such as the ostrich or cassowary. Emus were hunted not for meat but because they yielded oil, used in those days for lamps and liniment.
Tench, Dawes and later Gregory Blaxland wrote of “crossing on to Emu Island”. There was an island but the whole of Emu Plains was wrongly called “Emu Island” until Governor Macquarie corrected the error in 1814 and named it Emu Plains.
The early settlers around Sydney viewed the Blue Mountains with longing. They felt that if they could only cross them they would find more people, grazing land or even a way to China. They “Aspired the Heights”. They dreamed of what was across the Blue Mountains and made many unsuccessful attempts to find a way across. When many settlers lost their lives attempting to find a way across, Governor King issued an order that no one was to try.
In 1813 Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth crossed the Blue Mountains, starting from Emu Plains. They followed the river around to Glenbrook Creek, up the Gorge to what is now Explorers Road and from there to Glenbrook Lagoon. They went without Government assistance, in order to find grazing land. Each received 1,000 acres as a reward. Lawson became Commandant at Bathurst and built the Old Bathurst Road to take his cattle across from Prospect.
Our early explorers succeeded because of their energy, determination and the challenges it presented. They also succeeded because they followed the ridges and valuable information gained from ex-convicts. Emu Plains became the Gateway to the West – to the goldfields, the mountains and adventure. Our school is our GATEWAY to our dreams too.